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A Taste of Raspberry Pi For Students in Union College Pilot Program

College View Academy senior Demy Sigowa likes computers — so much that he plans to pursue a career in computer science

Photo by Peter Slater/Flickr

College View Academy senior Demy Sigowa likes computers — so much that he plans to pursue a career in computer science. The desire only got stronger last spring, when he took Fundamentals of Computer Science, part of a Union College pilot program to offer new college-level courses to academy students in Mid-America.
“I loved the class,” Sigowa said. “It was challenging at times, but all worthwhile knowledge. My favorite part was the Raspberry Pi section.”

The class teaches students a variety of computer skills, including how to disassemble a computer and hard drive; encrypt and decrypt messages using public and private key systems; and monitor, save, and plot temperature data using a SenseHat attachment and a Raspberry Pi—a small, inexpensive computer.
Dr. Seth McNeill, who teaches engineering and computer science, described the Raspberry Pi as “the processor system used in cell phones, but set up with USB ports, HDMI outputs, and audio output more like a regular computer.” Thanks to funding from the Division of Business and Computer Science advisory board, students pay a reduced fee and keep the small computers after the class is over.
Fundamentals of Computer Science — team-taught by McNeill and fellow computer professor Debbie Unterseher — is a required introductory course for every computer major at Union. Students learn the basics of computer programming with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; and server management using Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP servers.
“We try to introduce students to everything we teach at Union in one semester,” McNeill said. “We touch on most aspects of computer science and information systems.”
The instructors use an asynchronous format to deliver course content to the academy students. Rather than all students meeting in a virtual classroom at the same time, the instructors provide course materials online and then communicate with each student via phone conversations, email and texting.
“Church leadership in this area of the country have been asking Union College to offer distance learning courses to Adventist academies,” said Frankie Rose, vice president for Academic Administration. “We hope to increase the number of courses we can make available to academy students using distance learning technology. These courses help students by providing an affordable way to earn college credit, and give them a sense of what it might be like to prepare for a specific career.”
Union has offered a computer applications course to academy students for several years. "There is a high demand for workers in computer related fields," said Rose. "We hope these courses will encourage more students to consider a career in computers."
Those jobs tend to pay well, too. According to a recent Forbes article ranking the 20 college degrees with the highest starting salaries for 2016, five of the top 10 were in the computer field — programming, information management and hardware.
For Sigowa, this introduction to computer science was the taste he needed to want more. “I've always liked computers,” he said. “But this class helped assure me that I want to study computers in college.”

— This article, written by student writer Elizabeth Bearden, originally appeared on the Union College website; click here to learn more about the computer science program at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.